Nana Asamini First Black Governor – Osu Christianborg Castle (1693 – 1694)


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Another person whose life and career present many interesting facets was Asomani (Asemmani) of Akwamu. Said to have been first employed as a cook in the English forts at Accra,’ after learning the ‘white man’s ways’ he established himself as a trader at Accra and acted as a broker for Akwamu traders who came there to trade with the Danes in Christiansburg, Later on, Asomani was chosen to carry out Akwamu’s revenge on the Danes.

After successfully executing his orders he became the Akwamu Governor of the castle in 1693. Akwamu-Danish estrangement had started at the end of the 1670s when the latter assisted the Accra to foil an Akwamu attack on them. The Danes were never forgiven by the Akwamu; and in 1693 Asomani, who was familiar with their strength and weakness, led a group of eighty Akwamu men into the castle.

The Akwamu deceived the Danes into believing that they had come to purchase firearms. By a clever ruse, they were able to load the guns with bullets that had been “concealed in the folds of their clothes’. Their guns were quickly turned on the Danes, who soon surrendered; the Danish Governor escaped, but his less fortunate countrymen have led captives to Akwamu.

Having received no information about the drama at Christiansburg, two Danish ships had set sail towards the Gold Coast in December 1693. After a long voyage, they finally arrived in June 1694. Onboard one of the ships was Hartwig Meyer, serving as the ship’s merchant.

His story goes on: “Unknowingly we came to the Coast where we were immediately informed and hurried to the place. Instead of the Royal Danish flag. We saw a blue flag, upon which figured a Black Moore brandishing his sword.” Meyer and the other ship’s merchant, Johan Trane, decided to make an attempt to get back to the castle. Being unable to re-conquer it by force, they had to negotiate with the King of Akwamu.

Nana Asamini Statue

Asomani, now Governor of Christiansburg Castle, did all he could to induce European traders to accept the change of ownership by extending his friendship to all traders, not excluding interlopers. He saluted all ships which approached his castle ‘with his cannon. Captain Phillip, who dined with him in 1693, seems to have been much impressed by his comportment and his hospitality.

Although his attempts to behave like the Danish Governor lent a ludicrous impression to his behavior, he did what, in the circumstances of the time, he considered best. At dinner, instead of dressing as an Akwamu representative, Asomani is said to have donned the full dress of a Danish Governor.

But while the new Governor was immensely enjoying the duties and rights of his new role, negotiations which were going on between the Akwamu capital and the Dutch were soon to deprive him of his position of honor.

In August 1693 the Dutch at Elmina asked the agents at Accra to investigate the possibilities of the sale of Christiansburg Castle by Akwamu and promised to fulfill all the former obligations of the Danes, namely, to pay the requisite rent. But the Akwamu king, Basua, would not part with his new acquisition; the furthest he would go was to allow the Danish captives in Akwamu to be ransomed and to promise not to sell the castle to any European nation other than the Danes and the Dutch, at least, however, Basua allowed himself to be persuaded into returning the castle to the Danes.

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In addition to the booty of goods and gold valued at about £1,600 sterling, the ransom price of the captives, the Akwamu capture of the castle brought over 100 marks of gold into the national treasury.

However, the Osu Christianborg Castle keys were never officially returned to the Danish, Akwamuhene kept the keys as a trophy for posterity and remain in the possession of the Akwamu even till today. Although the successful negotiation for the return of the castle ended Asomani’s career as the Akwamu Governor, it was by no means the end of his active life on the coast.

Relying on the friendship and the contacts he had forged during the period of his public life, he set up his private business some years later at Labadi, a few miles from the castle he had commanded and was able to divert Akwamu traders to himself, and thus to develop a lucrative trade with interlopers.

In 1700 the Danes made an unsuccessful attempt to force him out of Labadi, but later representations to Ado, the new ruler, bore fruits. Pressure from the Akwamu court forced Asomani to move his business further east to Great Ningbo. It is uncertain whether it was further pressure from Akwamu that made him eventually wind up his business.

What is known is that in 1703 he was the chief of Uma, a town on the road to the Akwamu capital. His prosperity as a trader is reflected in the manner in which he lived. Asomani built himself a palace on which he mounted a few cannons, and when the occasion offered itself he appears to have indulged in his favorite pastime, as when he was the Akwamu Governor.

On occasions, he saluted prominent foreign visitors with a few cannon shots, as he did in 1703 to a visiting Dutch delegation on its way to the Akwamu king.’ After 1704, Asomani disappears from the European records. It is certain that he remained influential and respected in his state throughout his life.

Asomani’s life and career were a mixture of public-spiritedness and private enterprise. Although he would have gained much from continuing with his trade, he was prepared to do as his ruler advised in order to bring about the greater good of his state. He sacrificed his private interest for the benefit of the lasting glory and influence of Akwamu.


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